Ex-Cove City Fire chief pleads guilty to stealing department funds


COVE CITY, Craven County - Former Cove City Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department Chief Tony Banks accepted a plea deal on Friday for his role in embezzling nearly $6,000 from the department.

District Attorney Scott Thomas said the 39-year-old Banks pled guilty to one county of larceny and was sentenced to 30 days in jail suspended, put on a year's probation and given 48 hours of community service, in addition to paying back the $5,700 he took, as well as $4,275 paid to Craven County for the cost of the investigation. He had no prior criminal charges, Thomas said. He did not serve any jail time as part of the plea agreement.

The larceny charge carried a lesser sentence than felony embezzlement, which in North Carolina is a Class F felony when less than $100,000 is involved, carrying a presumptive sentence of between 13 and 16 months.

Banks was the fire chief at CCFRD from 2012 to 2016. An internal investigation in the fall of 2016 revealed the missing money, and Banks was confronted about the matter. Banks, according to Thomas' office, made immediate repayment of approximately $3,100.

However, an investigation by a third-party forensic investigator at the order of the Craven County Manager and Finance Director's office, identified another $2,600 in missing fund attributed to Banks.

Thomas said Banks cooperated with the investigation and paid the remainder of the outstanding money, including the investigation costs, on Friday.

Banks cannot join any other fire department during his time on probation. He was replaced as chief of the CCFRD in October by Joe Monette, who was interim chief at first before being voted permanent chief in January.